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The return.

From the window of the train, the man looked out at the city of his birth. His eyes filled with tears. Thirty years! He got out at the station-just as he remembered it, nothing had changed-and breathed deeply. It even smelled the same, woodsy and dusty. No more aroma of coal now that the trains were electrified. And the station-master-could it be? Still the same one. Except for the bald pate, whitened mustache, wrinkles and frame bent with the burden of added years, he hadn't changed a bit.

The man didn't need to ask the way downtown. He walked, his feet guided by his memory. The center of town was just as before. The square. The church. City hall. Even the fellow selling lottery tickets in front of the Businessmen's Club appeared the same.

"Didn't you have a dog?"

"Oh, you mean Frisky? He died, it's been twenty years already."

The man knew that walking up Fifteenth(*) would bring him to the movie house, the Elite. He headed that way, and there it was. Still showing films, but its name had changed. Now it was the Rex. The candy store was still next door, recalling the sweet pleasures of childhood.... He walked in. Just the same-except for the formica counter, exactly the same. And if he weren't very much mistaken, the same owner.

"You're Mr. Adolfo, aren't you?"

"Lupercio."

"Well, I had it almost right. I'm looking for the house where I was born, I remember it was beside a drug store."

"Which one, the One-stop or the Modern?"

"Which is older?"

"The Modern."

"Then that's the one."

"It's on Voluntarios da Patria Street."

Of course. Good old Volunteers. And there was his house, intact. He felt like crying. It was a different color. They'd changed the side door and probably walled up one of the windows. But no doubt about it, that was his childhood home. He knocked at the door. The woman who opened it looked vaguely familiar.

"Auntie?"

"Buddy!"

"Well, my name is.."

"We all called you Buddy. Come on in!"

She poured him a drink. Asked about relatives he didn't know. And he asked about others she didn't know. They talked until it grew dark, then he stood up and said he'd have to be going. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to stay in Riachinho any longer. He'd only come for old times'sake. She seemed a bit mystified.

"Riachinho, Buddy?"

"Yes, why?"

"You're going to Riachinho?"

He didn't understand. "No, I'm in Riachinho."

"No, you're not. Riachinho is the next stop on the train. You're in Coronel Assis."

"Then I must have gotten off at the wrong stop!"

For a few minutes, they looked at each other in silence. Finally, she asked: "What did you say your name was?"

But he was already out the front door, stunned. Now what? He didn't even know the way back to the station in that strange town.

Luis Fernando Verissimo is a widely published satirist whose syndicated column appears in a variety of Brazilian publications. This piece was first published in a 1984 collection of his short stories, A Mulher do Silva.

(*) In Brazil, Fifteenth of November Street (honoring the day Brazil became a republic in 1889) is comparable to Main Street in the United States; there probably isn't a town or city that doesn't have a street so named. Voluntarious da Patria is another favorite. Translator
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Title Annotation:satire
Author:Verissimo, Luis Fernando
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:568
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